Roanoke tobacco shop celebrates a century in business

Milan Tobacconists celebrated Saturday with a leading cigar maker

The air was thick with cigar smoke, the shop crowded with loyal customers, as David and Renee Meyer celebrated Milan Tobacconists' 100 year history.

"I've seen pictures of Roanoke back in the heyday," David Meyer told us, "And you look down the street and you see four or five tobacco shops. Milan's is the only one left."

The day included recognition from state and local leaders, and emotional moments from the current owners. Renee Meyer's father purchased the business from the Milan family in 1994.

"None of this would be achievable if it weren't for the Milans," Renee Meyer told tthe crowd, "and the Roys and then the customers and the patrons, who've been so wonderful in supporting this adventure of ours."

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The guest of honor was Carlos Fuente Jr., the President of Arturo Fuente & Company, one of the world's leading makers of premium cigars.

"Milan Brothers, Milan Tobacconists, I've known for a long time," Fuente said. "As a young man, little boy, I used to pack orders for this company."

His company is also celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012.

"It's something that is achieved through only love," Fuente said in an interview, "and a commitment that is greater than the business itself."

Despite the struggles that every small business faces, and challenges that are specific to the tobacco industry, Renee and David Meyer are optimistic that quality products and personal service will continue to pay off.

And while a special guest signed cigar boxes, and customers lined up to buy his products, the Meyers were opening a new chapter in the history of an enduring local business.

100 Years of Fuente - Celebrating a Family Dynasty

01 ca 100-copyThe warehouses were completely engulfed in flames, and the firefighters were losing the battle. The men and women attacked the fire, spurting water through the windows of the blazing buildings until the smoke and the heat overwhelmed them. Even when they could fight no longer they called for milk in hopes of fortifying themselves for another round, But it was too late. Two large warehouses with irreplaceable stocks of tobacco were lost.

Veritable bunkers, the two structures had seemed impregnable until Hurricane lrene raged to within 70 miles of Villa Gonzalez, Dominican Republic, stirring Winds that fed the flames. Even as the blaze leapt toward the sky, rains lashed the scene, almost in irony. Inside was a treasure trove, tobacco that was years and even decades old, leaves from around the world that had been destined to he rolled into celebratory smokes for its owner, Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.


Fuente Fuente OpusX Celebrates 100 Years


Printed in the February 7, 2012 issue of Cigar Insider


One of the newest Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars, the ForbiddenX 13 Torch Bearer 2012, may also be the one closest to the heart of the company, and of most signifi-cance to the family. Everything about the line has roots to the family’s history, from the names of the cigars down to the particular land on which the tobacco was grown. For the Fuentes, it all comes back to the number 13. Fuente president Carlos Fuente Jr. said 13 holds great sig-nificance for his family, and always has. “It’s my father’s number,” he said, explaining how the otherwise unlucky number has a telling frequency for his family. Carlos Fuente Sr. was born on 13th Street, the company has its Tampa headquarters at 1310 N. 22nd Street, company founder Arturo Fuente was 85 when he passed away (the numbers add up to 13) and the wrapper leaf for the ForbiddenX line happens to be grown on 13 acres of land. “It’s symbolic to everything for my family,” said Fuente Jr. The Torch Bearer 2012 (7 5/8 by 49, $18.00) marks the centennial of the Arturo Fuente brand, which the Fuentes will celebrate in November, but the other five sizes in the ForbiddenX 13 line (which began reaching retailers in December) also carry weighty significance for the Fuente brand and the Fuente family. The Fuente Fuente OpusX ForbiddenX 13 Nacimiento (5 1/8 inches by 43 ring gauge, suggested retail price $11.75) represents the company’s 1912 founding in Tampa, Florida. The God’s Whisper (7 1/5 inches by 41, $16) is in memory of the 1924 fire that put Arturo Fuente out of production for more than two decades. The Heart of the Bull (5 1/4 by 50, $14.00) com-memorates when ownership of the company was trans-ferred to Carlos Fuente Sr. in 1957—Fuente Sr. was born under the astrological sign of Taurus the bull. The Destiny (5 3/4 by 52, $15.75) marks the move to Dominican facili-ties in 1980. A final, forward-looking sixth cigar called the Keeper of the Flame 2013 (6 1/4 by 49, $15.00) points this line’s focus forward, pointing to a new generation that will continue in this company’s traditions. The cigars come, of course, in boxes of 13. For more on the Fuente family’s 100-year history, see the current issue of Cigar Aficionado, now on newsstands. A rating of the Fuente Fuente OpusX ForbiddenX 13 Torch Bearer 2012 will appear in the April Cigar Aficionado.


A Century and Still Going Strong

The Fuente Family2012-1When a family-owned business makes it for 100 years, it’s a big deal. For the Fuentes, it’s even bigger because the road has been neither smooth nor easy. In fact, the family has endured many a setback, only to come back stronger than before. Next spring, the Fuentes will celebrate their history, and now refer to 2013 as “year one” of their family’s second century in the cigar business.

The story begins in 1906 when 19-year-old Arturo Fuente left his home in Cuba for America. Like thousands of others, he arrived in Key West looking for opportunities in the wake of the Spanish-American War, which had left Cuba’s economy in shambles. He was soon rolling cigars in the area’s now-fading cigar operations… but he did not stay long.

The remote locale offered precious little real estate, and the constant threat of !re forced cigarmakers to look elsewhere after a devastating blaze swept Key West in 1886. Vicente Martinez Ybor finally settled in Tampa for its huge bay, proximity to the railroad, and favorable climate. There he created Ybor City, which would become one of America’s premier cigar-manufacturing areas.



Fuente: A Word for the Wise

floridaSmokerCarlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr. president of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Compania, surveys his family's tobacco fields with a watchful and knowledgeable eye, His skill is one honed from 43 years spent as the grandson of family patriarch, Arturo Fuente.

With a dozen thatched drying houses as a backdrop. Fuente makes his way through the fields with master grower Danilo Mocada at his side. Exercising passion and experience. Carlito tenderly inspects a leaf, and smiles. Together, he and his long-time grower, whom Carlos Fuente Sr. himself brought from Nicaragua to oversee the family's Dominican growing operations, carefully examine the plants, ensuring that each has
grown to earn its place in a Fuente cigar.

“In order to really understand this business, one needs to touch the tobacco, walk around and sense the vibrations." Fuente says, his voice is filled with conviction and sincerity. “There is a culture and history that comes with cigars." He pauses for a moment “It is my life," he continues, not minimizing the claim.



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